Best Things To Do in Zagreb

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and one of the most visited cities in the Balkan Peninsula. Here I tell you everything you can see and do during your trip to this destination.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

9 min read

Best Things To Do in Zagreb

Zagreb | ©Nick Kenrick

Zagreb is one of the most popular cities in the Balkan Peninsula, largely because of its Austro-Hungarian architecture and the number and variety of attractions it offers. Also, it is one of the cultural reservoirs of the country and in its streets you can find the roots of the Roman Empire, which established the first communities in the region.

Among the best activities you can do in Zagreb are to enjoy the typical gastronomy, visit the imperial buildings, visit the national parks and the lakes around the city.

1. Walk the traces of the Croatian War

Museum of the City of Zagreb.| ©Hans Permana
Museum of the City of Zagreb.| ©Hans Permana

If you want to know one of the most important stories of Zagreb's recent past, you can't miss the Croatian War, which pitted the country against the Serbian army in the 1990s. To learn about this war of independence as the Croatians call it, you can visit many sites and exhibitions available throughout the city.

One of the most impressive places to relive these events is the Homeland War Memorial Museum. This museum houses detailed exhibits on the 1991 siege of the city and the Serbian army's bombardment, offering an in-depth look at the tragedy and heroism that took place during the conflict. On the other hand, you can also discover the damage left on Zagreb's structures that were not repaired to bear witness to this conflict.

On the other hand, under the hill of Gornji Grad, you can visit the Gric Tunnel, an old subway structure built during World War II that was used as a hospital and refugee center during the Croatian War and now houses the Zagreb City Museum. There you can find documents, photographs and objects that illustrate the country's struggle for freedom.

These tours can be done on your own but I also recommend you to book a tour of the war in Zagreb so that in the company of an expert guide you can learn in depth and in detail the events that marked this conflict while touring the city.

Book a war tour in Zagreb

2. Visit the Zagreb Cathedral

Zagreb Cathedral| ©Francisco Gonzalez
Zagreb Cathedral| ©Francisco Gonzalez

Zagreb Cathedral is known locally as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and marks kilometer zero of the Croatian capital. This Gothic-style building, with its tall towers and ornate facade, is one of the most iconic sites in the region and was built in the 13th century on the ruins of earlier structures.

During your visit to the cathedral you can see its collection of sacred art, ranging from liturgical ornaments to historical relics. In addition, you can also visit the cathedral's 105-meter-high south tower, which houses the bell tower.

A visit to this site will also allow you to see other important attractions nearby, such as St. Mark's Square, with its colorful rooftops and the church of the same name, and the Upper Quarter, with its cobblestone alleys and bohemian charm, will give you a different perspective of this traditional and historic destination.

Book a guided tour of Zagreb

3. Discover the gastronomy of Zagreb

Lunch in Zagreb| ©Twang_Dunga
Lunch in Zagreb| ©Twang_Dunga

One of the best ways to get to know a destination is to discover its gastronomy and Zagreb is no exception. This city, distinguished by its architecture, also offers some of the most exquisite dishes of the region and a wide culinary circuit that includes, among other places, the Dolac Market, a tour of commercial stalls where you can find fresh produce, vegetables, cheeses and local sausages.

You can also visit the popular Tkalciceva district, known for its cafes and restaurants. There you can mainly enjoy modern Croatian cuisine in places like Vinodol, where you can try pasticada, a meat stew marinated for hours and served with gnocchi. It is a typical Croatian dish that fuses intense flavors, tradition and a caloric shock ideal to face the low temperatures of the Agramite winter.

In addition, you can also visit Konoba Didov San, one of the most famous restaurants in the city that specializes in strukli, a cheese cake baked and seasoned with fresh herbs that is usually accompanied with a local wine from local grape varieties, such as plavac mali.

Book a gastronomic tour in Zagreb

4. Get to know Zagreb's medieval heritage

Lotrscak Tower.| ©Ronnie Bose
Lotrscak Tower.| ©Ronnie Bose

Croatia is a country that keeps a deep medieval tradition and Zagreb in particular, in the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, will give you some of the most outstanding postcards to discover this heritage. That is why one of the best things to do in the Croatian capital is to visit the sites that played an important role in the Middle Ages, such as the Cathedral, St. Mark's Square and the Lotrscak Tower.

Many of these spaces were the scene of government and public torture during the medieval period in Zagreb and were part of the social fabric of the city. Also, during the tour of these sites you can learn about the stories of prostitution, riots, witch hunts, alchemy and diseases that were part of their time.

All these places can be visited on your own or you can participate in a night tour that will take you on a journey back in time to the medieval times of the Croatian capital. On these tours you can walk through the Old Town and get to know the secrets, corners and cellars that were the protagonists of the history of the old Zagreb.

Book the Zagreb sightseeing bus

5. Visit the Mirogoj Cemetery

Mirogoj| ©Baburek
Mirogoj| ©Baburek

Located on the outskirts of Zagreb, the Mirogoj cemetery is one of the most outstanding architectural works of the Croatian capital. Surrounded by high stone walls and built from the neo-Renaissance porticoes at the entrance, it offers cobblestone paths that highlight the ornate tombs, sculptures and gravestones, many of which date back to the 19th century, when the cemetery was inaugurated.

Likewise, the design of many of the burial chapels inside the cemetery harkens back to the complex Austro-Hungarian architecture, displaying frescoes and ornamental details that trace the concept of life and death that the inhabitants of Zagreb had during the years of the empire.

On the other hand, the Mirogoj cemetery offers not only a space for reflection and contemplation, but also one of the main tourist circuits of the Croatian capital, as it is one of the sites frequently included in the guided tours.

6. Touring the Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park| ©Hrvoje Sasek
Plitvice Lakes National Park| ©Hrvoje Sasek

Booking a tour to Plitvice Lakes National Park is an experience that will allow you to discover the natural beauty of Croatia. Although this site is not located in Zagreb, it is one of the most visited attractions in the country and the capital is the ideal starting point to discover it. Just a few hours' drive from the city, this park offers a unique spectacle of interconnected lakes, waterfalls and dense wooded landscapes.

The main activity at this site is to walk the trails that wind around the lakes and waterfalls. There you will be able to cross wooden bridges that cross the crystalline waters, which will give you panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. In addition, the park has trails of different levels of difficulty, making the experience accessible to visitors of all ages.

During your trip you can visit Plitvice Lakes on your own or on some of the best excursions from Zagreb. In any case, whichever way you choose to visit, here you can discover one of the most beautiful natural sites in Croatia.

Book a tour to Plitvice Lakes

7. See the panoramic views from the Medvednica Mountain

Medvednica| ©Zoran Mirković
Medvednica| ©Zoran Mirković

One of the best things to do in Zagreb is to take in the panoramic views of the city from Medvednica Mountain, a site that marks one of the highest points in the city with a height of over 1000 meters above sea level. The view from this site will allow you to distinguish from the rooftops of the Old Town to the plains of the new part of this destination.

The Zagreb Cathedral, St. Mark's Church and the Lotrscak Tower are just some of the emblematic buildings that you can see from Medvednica. Also, on clear days, you can even make out the mountain ranges that frame the Croatian skyline. Moreover, this peak will show you the variety of Croatian nature, from lush forests and winding trails to meandering lakes.

Also, on this mountain you can hike the trails on an adventure tour, visit the medieval fortress known as Medvedgrad Castle and participate in cycling tours that include this mountain in their itineraries.

Book a bike tour in Zagreb

8. Meet the Stone Gate

Stone Gate| ©Andrey Sulitskiy
Stone Gate| ©Andrey Sulitskiy

The Stone Gate is one of Zagreb's historical relics and a monument that evokes the grandeur and antiquity of the Croatian capital. Located near St. Mark's Square, this structure built in the 13th century served as the main entrance gate to the walled city during the Middle Ages.

Its name comes from the stone blocks that compose it, carved with skill and resistance to withstand the passage of time. In its architecture you can appreciate Gothic and Renaissance influences, reflecting the different periods of construction and renovation it has undergone over the years.

Also, today the Stone Gate is one of the city's focal points and in the nearby areas you will find not only some of the main attractions of this destination, such as the church of San Marcos and the Government Square, but also many of the most popular bars and restaurants of this destination.

9. Visit the Nikola Tesla Museum

Nikola Tesla Museum| ©Añelo de la Krotsche
Nikola Tesla Museum| ©Añelo de la Krotsche

Nikola Tesla is one of Croatia's prodigal sons and if you are interested in discovering his legacy you can do so at the museum that pays tribute to him. This exhibition is a tribute to one of the greatest inventors and engineers in history and is dedicated to his life, but also to his revolutionary contributions that favored the development of alternating current, radio and electrical technology.

The Nikola Tesla Museum, which is one of the most visited museums in Zagreb, occupies what was the inventor's family home and where he spent much of his youth. On the other hand, the exhibition houses an extensive collection of objects, documents and models illustrating Tesla's life and monumental work. There you can explore his inventions, experiments and discoveries that transformed society and paved the way for the modern age of electricity.

Inside the museum you will find models of machines invented by Tesla, as well as reconstructions of his laboratories and studios. Interactive exhibits offer a deeper understanding of his theories and experiments, and you can also discover the relationship between Tesla, Zagreb and the scientific community he was part of in his time.

10. Relax in Maksimir Park

Maksimir Park| ©JosipaB
Maksimir Park| ©JosipaB

Maksimir Park is one of Zagreb's green lungs and not only offers a serene haven where you can relax or unwind between excursions, but it also has a rich and fascinating history. Founded in 1787 as one of the first public parks in Europe, Maksimir has evolved from an aristocratic hunting ground into one of the city's most prominent urban parks.

Within the park you can explore a variety of attractions, such as the lake and its island, the Belvedere pavilion and the large grove of trees that provides shade on sunny days. In addition, Maksimir Zoo, which is the oldest zoo in Eastern Europe, houses a variety of animals including lions, zebras and bears.

On the other hand, near Maksimir Park is the stadium of the same name, which has a deep historical significance, as it was the place where the Croatian War is believed to have started in 1991. During a soccer match, Zvonimir Boban, the then captain of Dinamo Zagreb, staged a symbolic incident by kicking a Yugoslav policeman. This event marked the beginning of tensions that led to Croatia's independence.

You can get to Maksimir Park on your own on the city's public transportation or on Zagreb's hop on-hop off buses, as some include a stop at this site.

Book the hop on-hop off bus from Zagreb